Small Shows Find New Support in Dotcom Mobile Truck
By Carolyn Braff
With viewers plugged into more screens than ever before, broadcasters are turning to the Internet to increase their content output at a decreased price point. Production trucks have not yet followed suit, forcing 53-foot expandos — and the production teams inside — to pull double duty, supporting both streaming productions and the 12-camera show. CP Communications, however, has just launched a solution. With its 27-foot Dotcom Mobile production truck, CP Communications and Total RF are opening a new door for shows with the ambition but not the budget for a full-scale HD production.
“A lot of dotcom shows will add two or three cameras and take a feed from a main show, and this truck is perfect for that,” explains Kurt Heitmann, VP, sales and marketing, for CP Communications and Total RF. It’s not supposed to compete with a 53-foot, eight- to 12-camera truck; that’s not what we want to do with it. We designed this truck with Fox.com productions in mind.”
CP Communications and Total RF had been putting together flight packs for Fox’s World Series and college BCS coverage, and after conversations with the network, rather than continue with the flight packs, CP Communications and Total RF proposed a different way to go: the Dotcom Mobile Unit HD 1, a 27-foot international cab-over tractor with a 16-foot B-unit trailer, rolled out after only three months of construction.
At the heart of the truck is a Broadcast Pix Slate 5032 HD switcher, which can take HD, SDI, and analog inputs.
“Basically, it will do all the conversion for you,” Heitmann explains. “It has two outputs, so it will give you an HD/SDI output and an analog output simultaneously. It will also store 60 hours of clip stores, so you can record right from the switcher or dump your Deko into our switcher and play it back from there. You don’t have to put a Deko into an EVS for headshots anymore.”
The switcher also uses a Harris Inscriber, but, for productions that prefer to bring in their own equipment, the B-unit trailer is pre-wired for an EVS or a Deko. An Evertz HD Downstream Keyer is also on board.
The truck is equipped with five JVC HD 250 cameras, which can switch from 720 or 1080i.
“They have an on-board recorder, so you can go out and do a quick show with it, bring it back and then stream it, or cut it live through the switcher,” Heitmann says. “We also bought another recorder so you can use five tape machines with the same DVCPro format that’s on the camera.”
The JVCs certainly keep the price down — the package, with five cameras, tripods, fluid heads, buildup kits, and the extra recorder, came in at less than $100,000 — but the biggest lens the cameras can handle is a 36x (the truck is equipped with five 17×11 Fujinon lenses).
“We felt that there was a major need for some small HD trucks, so we went to MultiDyne and asked them to design fiber-optic sheds for our cameras,” Heitmann explains. “Our cameras are all done on fiber, so we had to get data, audio, video, and comms all on fiber. MultiDyne basically took their LiGHTBoX product, a bidirectional-field fiber transport, and redesigned it to suit our JVC cameras.”
Panasonic, Sony, and Sharp monitors combine to create a fully patchable, flat-panel virtual monitor wall, in front of which a technical director, director, and producer can fit comfortably in the first row. The second and third benches can each comfortably seat two, and the hallway is wider than usual.
“We know how many people like to squeeze into a truck,” Heitmann says. “We put a lot of thought into how to put a full-size truck into a 27-foot body.”
That 27-foot body is the perfect companion for ConCom Inc., a Connecticut-based company that produces pay-per-view packages of Ultimate Fighting Challenge content.
“On the Friday before a fight, we either take the weigh-in live to ESPN or do cut-ins with ESPN interviews, as well as stream the weigh-in live,” explains Allan Connal, president of ConCom Inc. “This truck was basically perfect for us. We augmented it with a Deko and one EVS as a playback source, so we could do an in-house show with it off the truck. At the same time, we produced the weigh-in and sent it to ESPN.”
Previously, Connal had relied on the same HD mobile unit that supported the pay-per-view event to take care of the weigh-in, but he describes that situation as “overkill.” In addition, for the event in Chicago, the weigh-in is in a separate location from the fight, so the Dotcom truck allows Connal to hire only one 53-foot truck, instead of two.
From college athletics to corporate shows, streaming content is exploding, which means that the Dotcom truck is getting plenty of interest, even if not every production is in high-definition.
“There are a lot of shows that don’t have big budgets and don’t necessarily need to go HD, but with this truck, you’re getting the capability of going HD,” Heitmann says. “There was no reason for us to build something that wasn’t an HD-ready truck.”
Heitmann also hopes to take advantage of some side-by-side business with this truck, and with a price tag of $7,500 complete with two engineers, he should have no shortage of takers.
“We’re going to see how this one goes,” he says. “We’ve not yet marketed this truck at all. If it takes off, yes, we will build more.”